The Science Seminar Series: January 17, 2013
Development of the intervertebral discs
Dr. Brian Harfe
Director, Program in Developmental Genetics
University of Florida, College of Medicine
Time: 4:00 -5:00pm
Identifying the molecular pathways required for forming the intervertebral disks. An unfortunate consequence of aging is the eventual failure of tissues and organs, which leads to pain, loss of mobility and eventually to death. A tissue that commonly deteriorates in older vertebrates is the intervertebral disks (located between the vertebrae along the spine). Age-related changes in the intervertebral disks are thought to cause most cases of back pain. Presently there is no cure for disk degeneration. In our laboratory we are investigating the cells and genes responsible for disk formation. The long-term goal of this project is to develop cell-based therapies to heal damaged and/or degrading disks in humans.
Currently, there are two disc projects ongoing in my laboratory. The goal of the first is to identify the cells that form the intervertebral discs and the role the hedgehog signaling pathway plays in disc formation. The second project is investigating the mechanical mechanisms responsible for disc formation during development. In addition, we have recently determined that the embryonic notochord forms the middle part of the disc called the nucleus pulposus. We have purified these cells and are currently assaying their ability to heal damaged discs using a mouse model.